Breaking down Beer City

Jake Keeley

Grand Rapids is synonymous with beer. With Founders, the Mitten, Harmony and New Holland all within city limits, it is very hard to drive around without seeing a brewery, let alone somewhere to get a beer. However, after living in ‘Beer City, USA’ for nearly a year and a half I still find myself face to face with that shiny, red case of bowties or Budweiser when I buy beer. What’s that sound? Residents sharpening their pitchforks? Yeah, I’m fairly used to that by now.

It’s not to say that I haven’t been to Founders, the Mitten, Harmony Hall, or New Holland. In fact, I have been to all of them and quite enjoy them. There is just something about those beers that start with ‘Bud’ that I can’t ignore. As I said, I don’t dislike drinking at the local breweries, but often I am just there for the atmosphere and I know I am not the only one.

One of the most intimidating things associated with craft beers is simply the uncertainty. If you’ve never had a Busch light I can tell you with much certainty exactly what you are getting, it’s half a can of Coors light added to half a can of water (sorry to disappoint the one Busch fan who is reading this.)

If you’ve never had an IPA, then the best I can do for you is to tell you “it’s hoppy,” which ultimately does you no good if you’ve never had a hoppy beer. The waiter will probably tell you it tastes like mixing the roots of a California Redwood with the smell that lingers after a rainstorm. Sure you can try it, but does that really tell the full story? Can you really trust ordering a beer you’ve never really sat down with and gotten to know? Simply deciding on a beer at all can be a tall order for some.

Along with that, whether it is right or wrong, ordering a craft beer usually sends out some sort of message to the rest of the world. Oftentimes, it indicates a certain level of sophistication, kind of like, “I used to drink Bud Light, but now I’m an adult and drink barrel-aged stouts.” Sometimes I even select the kind of beer I am going to drink in order to hold myself to a certain standard. Those brewers don’t take kindly to people getting drunk off of their beers, whereas that’s basically old hat for the macro brew crowd.

Yet, there is no denying that a person holding a KBS gives off an entirely different vibe than someone holding a Bud Light. It seems as if the level of sophistication grows the more obscure the beer is. Thankfully, you can use this to your advantage. If you just tell everyone that you only drink a certain, relatively unknown beer, then everyone will assume you’ve tried a lot of beer and that you are a beer expert. Everyone wants to be an expert.

If you live in West Michigan and aren’t totally onboard with the beer scene, you are not alone. I can’t help but wonder if maybe one day we will be the odd men out, and people will be asking us to describe the taste of a Bud. Until then, cheers.